Sabers, cigars and ammo, oh my!
December 16, 2009
BAGHDAD - As the 1st Cavalry Division's customs program manager, Sgt. 1st Class Travis Huggard, a Spangle, Wash. native, sees a lot of forbidden items when Soldiers go through customs inspections.
Huggard's job is to monitor, supervise and provide quality control management to the Brigade Combat Teams; each one assigned 30 to 40 customs border clearance agents.
These agents conduct hands-on searches to inspect, both visually and physically, every item Soldiers attempt to transport back to the states. If the BCT agents find anything or have questions, they contact Huggard directly.
The little things are what seem to be stumping the Soldiers, and Huggard wants to ensure Soldiers understand what they can and cannot take through customs, so they don't lose personal items. Many prohibited items are either new or have been amended, he said.
"A lot of changes have come down lately, and we can't publish fast enough," said Huggard.
"Overall, Soldiers are doing a good job getting things cleared properly, and the chain of command is doing a good job conducting pre-inspections," said Huggard.
Though Soldiers seem to be doing well with pre-inspections, questions about customs will continue to arise because the requirements are always changing. Standing in front of a customs inspector in Kuwait is not the time to ask questions.
If there are questions about things, the units need to ask their BCTs or get in touch with the Provost Marshal Office before they get to the inspection site in order to avoid delays.
"We look at the intent," said Huggard. "If it's well-hidden," he added, "it's a major violation and the world stops turning. UCMJ action will be taken."
The goal is to make sure everything is conducted smoothly and Soldiers get out in the least amount of time, Huggard said.
Soldiers are very well informed, so fewer mistakes are being made, said Huggard. But always remember, the most important thing to do with an item in question is to ask, before it becomes an issue. The standards don't change from here to Kuwait.
Huggard said he is looking forward to his not-so-distant future trip home to his wife and four children, in which he, too, will face the scrutiny of customs inspectors.
Here are some common things of note that can spare you both time and money...
Aca,!Ac You are only allowed one of a specific type of pirated item every 30 days, i.e. one DVD, one watch, 1 purse, etc. This is not a DVD policy mandated by MND-B. It is a policy that requires U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents to enforce a rule that has been in place for the last seven to eight years. Understand this previous misconception; it's not a new policy.
Aca,!Ac Placing a SECRET sticker on your electronic device is NOT funny, that is until your buddy falls to the floor laughing when the item is confiscated by customs and handed over to the Military Police. You won't get it back. Do your bank account a favor, don't place a sticker that reads "US Government Property" on anything you might miss.
Aca,!Ac The commander's memo for spring-loaded knives is no longer necessary as long as it's an issued type, i.e. universal multi-tool, not a switch-blade type knife. One or two is fine, but if you try to pack a box of knives, you will be questioned and the knives may be confiscated. All knives must be in your CHECKED BAGGAGE. Dozens of knives are confiscated each day. Don't give customs a reason to take any of your things away.
Aca,!Ac Swords, sabers and knives native to Iraq are permitted, but they must be sheathed and in CHECKED BAGGAGE.
Aca,!Ac Absolutely no butane or Zippo lighters are allowed into the cabin of the airplane. Sorry folks, you'll have to wait to light one up until you are able to retrieve your checked baggage.
Aca,!Ac Each brigade is authorized one gifted weapon or an historical item. "War trophies" require paperwork. Prior to arriving for your inspection, ensure that any gifted weapon has been properly demilitarized and that all of the proper paperwork is filled out completely.
Aca,!Ac If you obtain any classified information and will be transporting it back to the states, you will need to have courier orders. Courier orders must be current and valid. "IN THEATER ONLY" means the orders are for use in theater only, which in turn means movement within Iraq, not movement from Iraq to the states.
Aca,!Ac Soldiers can bring aerosol cans (i.e. shaving cream, body spray, spray deodorant) in their checked baggage.
Aca,!Ac A carton of cigarettes or 100 cigars is the limit, and only non-embargoed country cigars will make the cut. If you remove the labels off of the cigars, they will be confiscated.
Aca,!Ac Brass and ammo are not permitted, regardless of what it looks like. Sift through the compartments of your IBA, especially in the pouches where the E-SAPI plates are inserted.
Aca,!Ac No dirt or untreated wood is permitted for transport. Be sure to scrub those boot bottoms before you get inspected. Dirt stuck to the bottom of boots is a common occurrence.
Aca,!Ac And last, but certainly not least, absolutely no pornography is allowed. It will be confiscated.